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New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - Eighteen thousand Indians die every day from direct or indirect causes of air pollution. And the progressive air poisoning is often linked to climate change. This is what a new study published in the scientific journal "The Lancet", reports, which generated a lively debate in India, involving civil society and the Catholic Church.
The most polluted cities in the world are Patna and New Delhi, the study notes, reporting 2010 data. Scholars indicate that one of the consequences of exposure to pollutants is the birth of pre-term infants. South Asia is the most affected region, with 1.6 million of pre-term births, nearly half of the world total.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked and must be addressed together, says The Lancet, stating that there is a "potentially catastrophic risk to human health". In addition, according to a World Bank estimate, these phenomena generate a loss of income for India amounting to 38 billion dollars a year.
Contradicting some of the reports published in India, The Lancet says that power plants and coal-fired power stations contribute to air pollution and the environment in the amount of 50% of the total.
The Minister for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave recently admitted in Parliament that the country spends 70 million rupees (about a million US dollars) each year for air pollution monitoring, in a vast country like India.
According to the minister, there are no credible studies to quantify the number of people with lung disease or the number of deaths that are a direct result of air pollution. Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan said: "When pollution hits the lungs, especially in younger children, it can be a killer: it is like a slow poison. We are very concerned, much has been done, but still a lot needs to be done".
The study shows that climate change has a significant impact on children's health. An estimated 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 from diseases associated with air pollution.
Speaking to Fides, Fr. Fabian Toppo, professor of theology at the Major Seminary of Calcutta said: "The report is disturbing. The Indian government should act seriously to address the problem. Rapid industrialization is the cause of air pollution. Conscience must be accompanied by action".
"Institutions and individuals have a responsibility to work at all levels to reduce climate change and deal with the impact", says to Fides Deepika Singh, Office Coordinator for Climate Change in the Federation of the Episcopal Conferences of Asia. "60% of people in India perceive that climate change is damaging people's lives. The Church is trying to help raise awareness, educate and act in terms of climate change. There is no time to waste, because it is a matter that touches the lives of all, especially the new generations "he concludes. (PA-SD) (Agenzia Fides 21/02/2017)